Economic and trade experts are calling on African countries to increase trade with each other and revive their agriculture sectors to overcome food insecurity and slow economic growth exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
The global food crisis has led to some 300 million Africans being food insecure. The crisis in Africa has multiple causes: persistent drought in eastern Africa, high food and energy prices, and the cutoff of wheat exports from Ukraine.
Speaking online to journalists Wednesday, Stephen Karingi, the head of trade at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said African countries also share some blame for the situation.
“Our food markets are experiencing a shock that is coming from outside the continent but why we are experiencing this shock is because we have very low intra-African trade in agriculture and agro-foods,” Karingi said. “If we had done better and unlocked the full potential of the agricultural sector, we wouldn’t be experiencing what we are experiencing today.”
Many African countries depend on two countries, Russia and Ukraine, for food and farm products. As the war continues and Russia continues to block Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, experts are urging African countries to work together to overcome the crisis.
Karingi said the continent needs to start implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area, which economists say has the potential to bring some 30 million people out of poverty.
“The AFCFTA is offering an opportunity to trade in value-added goods, agro-commodities,” he said. “It becomes easier for you to trade in wheat flour or maize flour or sorghum flour which is made from one country to another because again you have the same standard and rules of origin are agreed.”
Oliver Chinganya, the head of the African Center for Statistics at the U.N. Economic Commission, said Africa is financially vulnerable to the global crisis.
The commission said as of May of this year, 23 African countries had failed to address the food crisis because they were at high risk of debt distress or were in debt distress.
The commission is calling for financial institutions to give those countries greater debt-service relief.